Matching vets with pets

One came into the shelter, wounded and shut down. The other came home from war in a similar state. But after a chance crossing of paths at Best Friends’ NKLA Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles, Samson and his new person, Doug Smith, recognized their shared pasts and are now overcoming obstacles together.

Today, Samson is one of many working service dogs trained to help U.S. military veterans, and he’s helping Doug transition from war zone to civilian life.

A majestic dog in need

Samson the German shepherd had to be carried outGerman shepherds are known as strong, majestic, loyal dogs. But when Samson arrived at a Los Angeles Animal Services shelter as a stray, he was filthy, underweight and covered in wounds.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it, as Labs and Friends.Org, a member of the Best Friends No-Kill Los Angeles Coalition discovered. NKLA Coalition partners pledge to help end the killing of dogs and cats in L.A. city shelters. So Labs and Friends.Org frequently travels to shelters to take in dogs and cats needing extra help. And Samson certainly fit that description.

“When I arrived to pick him up, a staff member had to carry him out,” says Lotta Nilsson, who volunteers both with Labs and Friends.Org and at the NKLA center. “He laid him on the pavement by my car, and Samson just laid there, no willpower to stand. I was almost in tears.”

Parallel roads to recovery

Lotta lifted Samson into her car, and that marked the beginning of a new life for him. Though his wounds had already been treated at the shelter, she got him to a vet to check him again to make sure he was OK. Once he was cleared to go to the NKLA center, staff there helped Lotta pick gravel out of his fur. The down-on-his-luck dog was finally getting TLC from everyone he met, and that began the healing of his physical wounds.

His soul’s wounds, however, would need more than a bandage.

“When he saw a leash, he became very afraid and would run to the back of the kennel,” says Katie O’Shaughnessy, lead pet caregiver at the NKLA center. Undaunted, the staff resolved to help Samson.

Katie says, “Caregivers worked very hard with Samson to build confidence. We slowly helped him get more comfortable on the leash and got him to walk around on his own within a couple weeks.” While Best Friends staff and volunteers take care of all pets at the NKLA center, Lotta went to the center every day to work with Samson, too. All the care and attention began to help.